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Fears over future of family services in Copeland

Credit: ITV Border

There are fears that changes to family services in West Cumbria will affect vulnerable people.

County council chiefs held a meeting last week to agree new contracts for child and family support services in a five million pound deal.

Services in Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland and Barrow are all due to be handed over to London-based Family Action. The Howgill Centre, who operate five centres in Copeland, will be taken over.

Barnardo’s was previously responsible for Allerdale, Carlisle, South Lakes and Eden, but now will only offer services in Eden.

The charity Action for Children, which previously looked after Barrow, is due to take over the South Lakes services.

Cumbria County Council say there should be no negative impact on centre users. But staff at Howgill are worried that people will suffer from a London-based company's lack of local knowledge.

Andrea Hardie-Knight, Chief Executive of the centre spoke to ITV Border's Hannah McNulty.

The Howgill Centre in Cleator Moor will be one of the services affected. Credit: ITV Border

We are extremely grateful to the Howgill Family Centre for the services they have provided to Children and Families in West Cumbria over many years and we will continue to work with them and support them to manage this significant change."

– Cumbria County Council

In a statement, the county council said: “The contract for Child and Family Support Services is due to come to an end on the 31st December 2019 and under procurement legislation the Council has to re-tender the contract. This has been a piece of work which started some time ago and following a thorough and fair procurement process we have arrived at the decision which has been taken today. Cabinet are legally obliged to award the contract to the organisations that submit the best overall bid.

“We are extremely grateful to the Howgill Family Centre for the services they have provided to Children and Families in West Cumbria over many years and we will continue to work with them and support them to manage this significant change. It is important to note that in these circumstances employees involved in delivering the service will be considered under TUPE regulations. We are also clear that there should be no negative impact on service users as a result of this decision, and other organisations or groups supported by Howgill should not be affected.

“We understand that there may be concerns locally during this period of change and our priority is to ensure that children, young people and their families receive the best possible support.”

Mike Starkie, the elected mayor of Copeland, said the number of self-referrals to the Howgill was evidence of high levels of confidence in the existing service.

Speaking to ITV Border, the mayor said that he and several other local councillors will be asking Cumbria County Council to reconsider the decision.

More than 700 people have signed a petition against the decision and it's now set to be called-in for review by councillors.